Perhaps some of my readers feel the same way: that we've had enough of PC talk, affirmative action, and people playing the victim. A lot of white folk feel that, by now, prejudice against people of color is over, so any more talk about it will just stir up trouble and discontent. Not to mention it would be giving black folks an extra leg up--that head start that will give them all the good jobs, leaving the rest of us to wonder what happened to our comfortable middle-class lives.
And if our society had truly reached an equilibrium, then further action and argument would truly be unwarranted. But the assumption that >500 years of bigotry and discrimination have been reversed in the last 40 years is simply false. Not nearly as much progress has been made as most white people think. A lot of lip service has been paid, without the necessary action behind it.
Sure there has been lots of improvement since 1961, I don't deny that. But plenty of privilege remains in being white in this country. About 95% of our CEOs and more than 85% of elected office positions are held by white people (no black folk in the Senate right now at all). These are the people of power in our country and it should come as no surprise that they are looking out for their own interests--the political bickering and economic meltdowns give us clear evidence of that. So why would we think that these folks would go out of their way to make sure the playing field is even for people of color?
And so it remains uneven.
Pay remains uneven, health care remains uneven, job promotions remain uneven, housing conditions remain uneven schools remain uneven.
So the steps we take to correct these imbalances does not put white folks at a disadvantage, it simply decreases the the unfair advantages that we have accumulated over the years. And yeah, it sucks if you know longer have a jet pack fueling your progress, but we are still light-years ahead.
It doesn't necessarily have to be a zero-sum game (more on that below), but the analogy is often framed such that if we are indeed running a race, POCs have been running for the first several centuries with their shoe laces tied together. Bearing in mind who tied them that way to begin with, what makes us think that the past couple of decades is enough time to rectify such disparity? How frustrating to run with all your might, only to have the the other team taunt you, wondering why you can't keep up??
And who really wants to win by cheating anyway? I think real sting is in finding out that your success is not solely due to your own prowess, but that a lot of it came from the unfair advantages you had along the way. We are prideful, and want to believe that we makers of our fortune. And it is frustrating (and probably scary) to loose those advantages to which we have grown accustomed. But don't we know that nothing that we have on this earth is our own? That we are owed nothing in this world? That every breath is thanks to God's grace? And are we more deserving of the abundant life than anyone else?
When we frame the issue as 'us vs them,' we reveal a lack of faith in our Provider. Will not our shepherd supply our needs? Would not the God of Justice, care for those that work towards equality on earth? Or do we believe in our own power to succeed beyond what He is capable of doing?
Recall the story of the early church, where the Greek widows (read: marginalized minority) were not being treated fairly. They weren't getting their fair share of the food (remember that they were to hold all things in common) and so the disciples raised up leaders from the minority community to be in charge of food distribution for ALL groups, with Jews submitting to Greek leadership for the greater good of everyone involved.
And what happened? If it were 'zero-sum,' we would assume that because more food now had to go to the Greeks, the Jews would end up hungry. But we serve a savior that fed 5,000 people from a few bread sticks and a couple of trout! Read what the bible says happens after the Greek leaders were appointed: "So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith."
Surely then, if we too step out in faith to fight injustice, not only will there be enough to go around, but the witness that we will bare will further the God's Kingdom as people finally see a picture of what God's love is about.
Allow me to conclude with the acknowledgement that white folks are indeed victims of racism. You are a victim of racism if you put God's power for reconciliation in a human-sized box. You are a victim of racism if you remain blind to the struggles of your sisters and brothers in Christ. You are a victim of racism because of the delay in medical and technological advances that results from impeded access to higher ed and employment. You are a victim of racism if you miss out on experiences, art, music, and worship because 'it's not your style.'
You may be a victim of racism, but you don't have to be. You are not powerless. The empowerment of people of color is not at white folks' expense, but for our benefit. Let us run together the race towards God's Kingdom on earth.